Retail Sales Growth Points to ‘Resiliency of Consumers’ Though Rising COVID-19 Cases Poses Threat, Says NRF Chief Economist

by Katie Sloan

Washington, D.C. — Retail sales have been increasing month-over-month and year-over-year for every month since June, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Monthly Economic Review. Retail sales in October were up 1.9 percent over September, which beat expectations from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. Additionally, October retail sales were up 8.6 percent since January 2020, according to research from Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker.

NRF’s chief economist Jack Kleinhenz notes in the monthly report that the rebounding sales were a positive indicator for retailers that are hoping for a robust sales performance this holiday season.

“Strong growth in retail sales during the last few months points to the resiliency of consumers even in this disruptive pandemic environment,” says Kleinhenz. The economist also pointed to additional stimulus money could help keep the U.S. economy on track.

NRF’s report pointed to increasing retail sales stemming from an uptick in disposal personal income, which was up 5.4 percent year-over-year as of August, and a savings rate of 14.4 percent that has remained in double digits for six straight months. Clothes and accessories sales jumped by 11 percent, while sales of sporting goods, music and books grew 5.7 percent.

Also in the report, Kleinhenz says the growing number of COVID-19 cases remains a threat to the U.S. retail sector as a rise in cases naturally leads to more restrictions for retailers and restaurants. John Hopkins University reported 99,321 new cases in the United States last Friday, Oct. 30, which is the highest single-day total in the world.

Based in Washington, D.C., the NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association. The trade group has 16,000 members, including department retailers, drug store chains, restaurants, grocers, e-commerce firms and specialty and discount retailers.

— John Nelson

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